Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
This - Holland America’s Zuiderdam - was my first cruise experience, and I really enjoyed it! Having no previous trips to compare it to, I will just provide my impressions. The ports we visited were Eastern Caribbean: Half Moon Cay, Road Town Tortola, St. Thomas, and Nassau. Cruise Duration: 7 days.
First, the food was excellent!! The menu in the main dining room featured a variety of selections each night, and they were consistently wonderful. Even a kids’ menu, which was great for my 10 and 6 year olds. The meat was always cooked to perfection…and the featured soups were a treat. The more informal Lido deck also served tasty fares in a buffet setting.
The staff was extremely courteous and accommodating… one of the guys would even make cute origami animals for the children. Also, we were amazed at the efficiency of the crew in processing 2000 passengers during various times: immigration screening, lifeboat drills, and debarkation. All were made very quick and painless to our amazement. All of the ports were really nice and had interesting things to do. My only complaint is that the ship wasn’t there long enough at any of them to really enjoy the places to their full extent. Also the shopping was great in most ports. Road Town had street vendors in an outdoor market, where we bought a really cute outfit for my daughter at a great price. My daughter (10 year old) liked Half-Moon Cay the best, because of the horseback riding shore excursion, and the fact that everything was located close together, so you could really fit more than one activity in on that day without much travel time. On St. Thomas, we took a boat to St. John for the Trunk Bay Beach Excursion. It was a beautiful beach, but it did involve time to get there, so we only got to stay about an hour and a half for a 4 hour excursion! Nassau’s Straw Market was really unique and a great place to buy souveniers, but hotter and steamier than a pot of lobsters! Diehard shoppers like me will love it, but don’t drag hubby in here unless he’s a shopaholic too.
We had a verandah stateroom which had a small balcony and was cozy. It would have been perfect for two, but with four, it got a little cramped. Next time, I would probably spring for a larger room if money permits. Certainly if I booked a longer than 7-day cruise.
Overall, I would rate the cruise very highly…
Here is my advice on the following based on our experience:
Clothing: Be sure to pack some warm clothes, like a sweatshirt and pants, to deal with the air conditioning even if you are cruising to warm climates. Also, prep your family for dress up nights! My husband (and 6 year old son) also really disliked having to dress up (wear a suit/tie) for the 2 formal nights – he (hubby) didn’t understand why he had to dress up while on vacation. Plus, we couldn’t wear shorts in the dining room, so even the casual nights were not as casual as my husband would’ve liked. Moms - prep yourself: after a long day on the beach or in the heat, kids may be ripe for balking at wearing “dorky” dress clothes.
Kids: Take advantage of Club Hal activities. Our kids liked it and it gave us a break.
Shore Excursions: Plan your time wisely, and inquire about “travel time” to and from the excursion. Our favorites were: Horses, & one snorkel adventure (stingrays). Also, it was really HOT lugging your stuff from ship to shore destination. Travel cool & light, if possible. I recommend morning excursions vs. afternoon.